Re: [OPE-L] Re; [OPE-L] new publication: adorno and social theory

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Wed May 11 2005 - 12:56:02 EDT

At 10:38 AM -0400 5/11/05, glevy@PRATT.EDU wrote:
>< >
>Tom Huhn (ed.)
>The Cambridge Companion to Adorno
>Tom Huhn (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to
>Adorno, Cambridge University Press, 2004, 428pp,
>$26.99 (pbk), ISBN 0521775000.
>Reviewed by Eduardo Mendieta, State University of New York, Stony Brook

Mendieta has translated and written quite a bit 
about Dussel. Dussel's thinking has very 
important commonalities with the early Marxist 
Horkheimer about whom my friend John Abromeit, 
now a fellow at the University of Chicago, has 
written a dissertation which I would highly 
recommend-- The Dialectic of Bourgeois Society: 
An Intellectual Biography of the Young Max 
Horkheimer, 1895 1937

>. Reason can only be approached by way
>of conceptual ruin, and the ruins of the concept.
>If Hegelianism is about both totality and
>mediation, identity and difference, then Adorno
>was the most Hegelian of 20th century thinkers,

I am not sure how the ruin of the concept is Hegelian, but
then I think Ivan Soll's interpretation of Hegel as a conceptualist
seems persuasive.

>who also, however, refused to embrace the
>Hegelian tale of ultimate reconciliation, or buy
>into the presupposed theodicy of the Golgotha of
>reason becoming freedom in history through
>endless suffering. If Geist, reason, is its
>history, this history remains a scar and no
>cauterization will conceal it under the smooth
>neoplasm of world-historical platitudes. Today,
>as Adorno said in so many ways, everything that
>is social and natural is thoroughly mediated, but
>the vehicle of the mediation is itself distorted
>by the "totality." There is no outside, only the
>mediated meditation, the trace of the whole in
>everything singular, and the singular as a monad
>that mirrors the whole.

is there no exteriority for Adorno to the totality? Postone suggests

>  This mediated mediation,
>however, is always the commodity form. The
>concept itself has succumbed to the theological
>incantations of the circulation of wares and
>exchange values. The concept itself, as Lukýcs
>had already shown in his History and Class
>Consciousness, and as Adorno never ceased to
>underscore, wore the scarlet letter of the market
>of commodities.

And Adorno here was more indebted to Sohn Rethel than Lukacs, no?
But I don't think there is much mention of Sohn 
Rethel in this Companion to Adorno. I'll check 

Yours, Rakesh

>  For this reason, one may safely
>claim, that along with Fredric Jameson, Adorno
>was one of the great Marxist dialecticians of the
>20th century.
>With these claims, we have already anticipated
>how to begin to evaluate The Cambridge Companion
>to Adorno. Although the editor did an outstanding
>job of introducing the essays, and gathering a
>stellar group of scholars, the book fails as a
>unity . There are some truly outstanding
>contributions in this volume. J. M. Bernstein's
>and Simon Jarvis's soon to be canonical essays
>are gems of philosophical reflection that are
>first-rate contributions to Hegelian, Marxist,
>and Adornian scholarship. After Bernstein's essay
>it will be easier to understand how Adorno was an
>anti-Hegelian Hegelian, and how faithful
>Hegelians can only be so as anti-Hegelians.
>Jarvis's essay rightly draws the contours of
>Adorno's historical materialism, and elucidates
>the ways in which Adorno's philosophical system
>was a close commentary and explication of Marx's
>Grundrisse and Kapital. The essays by Christoph
>Menke and Gerhard Schweppenh·user explicate the
>ways in which Adorno contributed to the debate
>among Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche on the
>relationship between freedom, morality, ethics,
>and justice, and how Adorno, therefore, should
>become a dialogue partner for second- and
>third-generation Critical Theorists as they study
>the nature of communicative freedom, dialogic
>solidarity, and substantive justice. The book is
>arguably weighted down by too many contributions
>on Adorno's work on the philosophy and sociology
>of the production and consumption of music. These
>essays, however, are also deformed by an
>eagerness to depict an Adorno in contradiction
>and aporia, an attitude more appropriate for
>scholarly journals and less so for tools of
>reference. James Schmidt's essay on Adorno's
>contributions to Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus and
>his tortured relationship with Arnold Schoenberg
>is an important contribution to the intellectual
>history of a decisive period in Euro-American
>migrations and diasporas. It should be read as a
>preemptive answer to Robert Hullot-Kentor's
>mystifying contribution, which unfolds an utopian
>aspect of Adorno's work on the grounds of a
>disconcerting assumption, namely that Adorno's
>work should be doubly alienated from the United
>States, the country that always stands in his
>work as a metonym for totality and modernity, and
>has served as the very material condition of
>possibility of most of his work. In more than one
>way, Adorno's work was a meditation on America,
>and that there may be interest on his obtuse and
>hermetic work in the US should not be "puzzling,"
>but both expectable and inevitable. In fact,
>Adorno may be needed more in the US than in
>Germany or Europe in general.
>In addition to some of these shortcomings, the
>book fails to cover some significant territory in
>Adorno scholarship. Adorno's relationship to
>Benjamin is not substantively addressed, and this
>is a major oversight, especially as Adorno's work
>is so much a commentary on what is promised and
>left unresolved in Benjamin's mangled torso of a
>work. Another twin to Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, is
>only mentioned once, but not discussed at all. No
>justice is done to Adorno's Negative Dialectics
>if it is not read in tandem with Bloch's
>Principle of Hope and Subject-Object:
>Clarifications on Hegel. Bloch was also a
>philosopher of music, and philosopher of art, in
>general, who was always in Adorno's background,
>much like the tain of a mirror. Adorno's
>relationship to psychoanalysis and Freud should
>have received more attention, notwithstanding
>Joel Whitebook's essay, which should not have
>been included in this volume because it is less
>interested in engaging Adorno's work on its on
>terms than in pushing Whitebook's own
>intellectual project. It is simply not the case
>that Adorno was not aware of the ways in which
>sublimation does happen in and through the
>psycho-social mechanism of civilization. At the
>same time, however, and Adorno did not tire of
>making this point, sublimation must be both
>resisted and held in abeyance. This was the point
>of a negative dialectics that resists all
>attempts at reconciliation with a reified psychic
>life. Adorno's rupture with Erich Fromm, for
>instance, could have been a point of departure
>for an insight into what type of Freud Adorno and
>Horkheimer wanted to preserve. For both, the
>Freud of instincts and intractable corporeality,
>whose suffering and desiring remains
>un-sublateable and irreducible, became the alibi
>for a critique of consumer culture and the
>discontents of civilization. It is with reference
>to this Freud of tormented and tormentable bodies
>that Adorno developed his "negative morality,"
>which refuses to reconcile Kant, or morality, and
>Hegel, or ethical life, because the moral
>imperative wells up as a somatic "impulse" and
>"stirring impatience" of the flesh. In general, a
>discussion of Adorno's type of Freudianism and
>how it stands athwart post-Lacanian
>psychoanalysis would have been most welcome.
>Although there are two essays that deal with
>Adorno and Heidegger, their focus militates
>against a more thorough and synoptic overview of
>this antinomial duet. There was no contemporary
>thinker against whom Adorno thought most
>continuously, consistently, obsessively, and
>lastingly. Heidegger haunts almost every sentence
>in the Negative Dialectics, precisely because
>Adorno thought that Heidegger was usurping what
>he thought he himself was doing: overcoming
>metaphysics by its immanent destruction. The
>question of technology was not the only the issue
>that brought them into vicinity. Both thinkers
>dealt extensively with questions concerning the
>nature of the work of art, the role of language
>in thinking and philosophy, and both produced
>original readings of Hegel, Kant, and Nietzsche,
>among others.
>Finally, an essay on Adorno's role as a public
>intellectual in Post-World War II Germany would
>have been very useful and would have allowed
>readers of the volume to access the impact, both
>beneficial and detrimental, to the development of
>West German political culture. The prejudice that
>Adorno was an elitist, disengaged from public
>culture, has begun to be refuted and dissolved by
>studies of the archives of the Institute for
>Social Research, and the publication of his
>extensive correspondence with colleagues,
>university officials, newspaper editors, and
>radio station directors[3]. These drawbacks
>notwithstanding, The Cambridge Companion to
>Adorno makes for a good point of entry into one
>of the most brilliant and capacious thinkers of
>the 20th century .
>[1] See in particular Stefan Mller-Doohm,
>Adorno: Eine Biographie (Frankfurt am Main:
>Suhrkamp Verlag, 2003), and Lorenz J·ger, Adorno:
>A Political Biography (New Haven, CT: Yale
>University Press, 2004).
>[2] Theodor W. Adorno, Philosophische
>Terminologie, Vol 1 (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp
>Verlag, 1973), 7.
>[3] See Alex Demirovic, Der nonkoformistische
>Intellektuelle. Die Entwicklung der Kritischen
>Theorie zur Frankfurter Schule (Frankfurt am
>Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1999). See the thorough
>review essay by Max Pensky, "Beyond the Message
>in the Bottle: The Other Critical Theory"
>Constellations, Vol. 10, No. 1 (2003) 135-144.
>See also Jrgen Habermas's essay on Adorno's
>centennial celebration, "Dual-Layered Time:
>Personal Notes on Philosopher T. W. Adorno in the
>'50's" Logos 2.4 (Fall 2003), available on-line
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